Law in Popular Culture

Silver Gavel Awards honor works on jailing pregnant women, judicial indiscretion

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The six recipients of this year’s Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts shine a light into little explored corners of the legal system, from the obscure laws that criminalize pregnant women to the harmful role judges played during the opioid epidemic.

The Silver Gavel Awards, which recognize outstanding work that fosters the public’s understanding of law and the legal system, were announced by the ABA Wednesday. In addition to the winners, the 18-member Standing Committee on Gavel Awards selected five honorable mentions from the 23 finalists announced in March.

“The American Bar Association engages in a deliberative and thorough judging process to select winners of the Silver Gavel Awards,” said Sharon Stern Gerstman, chair of the committee and counsel at Magavern Magavern Grimm in Buffalo, New York. “We congratulate all of our 2020 awardees for their exceptional efforts to advance the American public’s understanding of law.”

The Silver Gavel Awards have been presented each year since 1958. Eligible categories include books, commentaries, documentaries, drama and literature, magazines, multimedia, newspapers, radio and television, but not every category receives an award every year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez will present the 2020 Silver Gavel Awards virtually at 5 p.m. ET on July 21. The event is open to all; members can contact [email protected] for more information.

Here is the complete list of winners:


Silver Gavel: Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration by Emily Bazelon; Penguin Random House.

Honorable Mention: No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder; Bloomsbury Publishing.


Silver Gavel:Debtors Prison”: St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Marcia Koenig, metro editor; Tony Messenger, metro columnist.


Silver Gavel: Personhood: Personhood Documentary, LLC, Tandybrook Films, Wanderhouse Productions; Jo Ardinger, director, producer, writer and editor; Rosalie Miller, producer; Marc Pingry, director of photography; Stefan Hajek, consulting producer.

Honorable Mention: Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066: JJML Productions LLC; Jon Osaki, director, producer and editor; Lauren Kawana, consulting producer.

Honorable Mention: True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality: Kunhardt Films and HBO; Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt, directors and producers; Maya Mumma, editor and producer.


Silver Gavel: Just Mercy: Warner Bros. Pictures, Endeavor Content, One Community, Participant, Macro, Gil Netter Productions and Outlier Society; Destin Daniel Cretton, director and writer; Gil Netter, producer; Asher Goldstein, producer.


Silver Gavel:Hidden Injustice”: Reuters; Dan Levine, Lisa Girion, Benjamin Lesser, Jaimi Dowdell and Michelle Conlin, correspondents.


Silver Gavel:The Path Home”: American Public Media’s In the Dark, season two; Madeleine Baran, host and lead reporter; Samara Freemark, senior producer; Natalie Jablonski, producer; Parker Yesko, reporter; Rehman Tungekar, associate producer; Will Craft, data reporter.

Honorable Mention:Broken Justice”: PBS NewsHour; Amna Nawaz, host; Frank Carlson, reporter; Vika Aronson, podcast producer; Erica R. Hendry and Emily Carpeaux, editors


Honorable Mention: The Feeling of Being Watched: POV | American Documentary and Multitude Films; Assia Boundaoui, director and producer; Jessica Devaney, producer; Rabab Haj Yahya, editor; Shuling Yong, director of photography; Justine Nagan and Chris White, executive producers.

See also:

2019 Silver Gavel Awards: “Silver Gavel Awards honor works on 19th Amendment, untested rape kits and bad cops”

2018 Silver Gavel Awards: “ABA announces winners of the 2018 Silver Gavel Awards”

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